Argentina vs Saudi Arabia
Lionel Messi’s last shot at World Cup glory gets underway at Lusail Iconic Stadium as Argentina and Saudi Arabia go head-to-head in a curtain-raising Group C encounter.
Widely considered the top favourites to win the Jules Rimet trophy, Argentina head into the tournament on the back of an outrageous 36-match unbeaten run, bookended by a stellar 5-0 romping of the United Arab Emirates in their last warm-up fixture. Lifting the 2021 Copa América and the 2022 Finalissma titles will likely add to the confidence gathered during an unbeaten World Cup qualification campaign (W11, D6). Lionel Scaloni boasts one of the most intimidating strike forces at the tournament, including Messi, Lautaro Martinez, and Angel Di Maria, yet Argentina’s recent World Cup fortunes don’t look inspiring. ‘La Albiceleste‘ have found themselves on the losing side in three of their last five World Cup matches (W1, D1), as many defeats as in their previous 24 combined (W16, D5).
In the meantime, Saudi Arabia’s second consecutive appearance at a World Cup finals comes amid the team’s abysmal ten-game form in international football (W2, D5, L3). Since reaching the knockout rounds in their maiden World Cup appearance in 1994, the ‘Green Falcons’ have failed to make it out of the competition’s group stages in four subsequent attempts. So with the odds heavily stacked against them, Herve Renard’s men will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they are to defy their disastrous 16-game record at the World Cup (W3, D2, L11). It’s also worth noting that 36% of their World Cup goals have come from the spot (4/11), a higher ratio than any of the teams featuring in this year’s tournament.